11 Absent Students — March 25 — Annunciation

You have probably wondered why our school chapel’s icon, statues, and crucifixes are veiled with purple cloth. Covering of religious images is a tradition for the last two weeks of Lent, a period we call Passiontide. So why do we have this tradition?

One explanation recalls that Jesus’, when His enemies sought to kill Him, hid Himself prior to His final days: “Jesus left and hid from them.” (John 12:36) Others see in this veiling a symbol for how Jesus’ divinity was veiled within His humble and vulnerable humanity. He was God incarnate, but none of the rulers of His age knew, “for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:8) But behind all of this I think there is a very human reason for why we veil the holy images of Jesus and the saints at Passiontide. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

During Lent we deprive ourselves of luxuries and pleasures for our personal conversion and growth in holiness, but we also do this so that we can celebrate the Christ’ Easter triumph with an even greater feeling of joy. This is why we normally don’t sing as much (or say the Gloria or the “A”-word before the Gospel) during Lent—so that we can enjoy pulling out all the stops at Easter.

Veiling our statues of Mary and Joseph, our wall icon of Elizabeth Ann Seton, and our crucifixes causes a little pain of separation within us. But what if this chapel had never been furnished? What if our chapel had always been bare of religious art? Then their absence would not affect us at all because we would not know that we were missing them.

There are not as many students here today as there should be. Now I’m not saying that this should have been a whole school Mass, and I’m not begrudging anyone who may have stayed in study hall this hour to work on homework.  This is a great turn out and every seat is filled. But still, there are not as many students here as should be here today.

In the early nineties, when most of you were born, for every three live births in our country there was one boy or girl who was intentionally killed. (CDC) I counted roughly 33 students here today. That means we are missing 11 of your classmates who were not allowed to be born.

Today we recall the Annunciation, which some people call “Pro-Life Christmas,” for even though Jesus will be born nine months from now, today is the day of the Incarnation, when God became a human being like us in the womb of the Virgin Mary. After the angel Gabriel departed, Mary went in haste to see her relative. Elizabeth exclaimed, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me,” and John the Baptist leapt for joy in his mother’s womb in the presence of our microscopic Savior, Jesus Christ. (Luke 1:43-44)

Imagine if 11 of your classmates were to die in a bus accident. You would you feel terrible from the loss, and our whole school would be in mourning. But we have never known the 11 who are missing here today, so we do not feel our loss.

At this Mass and henceforth, let us keep the following things in mind regarding the past, present, and future. As to the past, remember these absent classmates and pray for them. They never received a name, they never had a funeral, and few people have ever prayed for them. Pray for their parents, too. 

In the present, perhaps you honestly find yourself not feeling much emotion one way or the other towards the reality of one million innocents being murdered in our country every year. If so, then ask God to give us His heart and His sight to love what He loves and to hate what He hates. God loves us all, but He hates our sins. He hates our sins because they are bad for us, and the worse they are for us the more He hates them. His love for us and His hatred for our sins are two sides of the same coin. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said “the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion.” The Lord’s heart is certainly not indifferent to this evil, and neither should ours be.

And finally, for the future, keep hope that this evil of abortion will come to an end in our time. We can have this hope, for as the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “nothing will be impossible for God.”

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